Continuing the class thread...greenspun.com : LUSENET : Chi Activist Meta : One Thread
Okay, let's shoot...
-- J.Yes (email@example.com), March 07, 2002
BTW, I apologize for my snarkiness about the spelling. That indymedia is just not conducive to a thoughtful debate - it's something about the format. Hopefully, we can get more in depth in here so I can get a better picture of what people are saying.
-- J.Yes (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 07, 2002.
I want to add more to this, but I have to step away from the computer for a few hours. Hopefully, there will be more discussion & answers when I come back. But I want to say : thanks for showing up!
-- J.Yes (email@example.com), March 07, 2002.
Thank you for clarifying that. I guess I was filtering it through my own experience, when I've brought things up, and people say, 'oh don't talk about that - it doesn't matter, it's just divisive'.
For what it's worth, I agree about just making such a comment without explaining, or dismissing someone outright as 'middle-class' or 'white'. I agree that it's very often self-serving and annoying. For example, I was in a meeting once in which I heard a member from A Certain Group say that members from a certain other group were only doing what they were doing because they were 'spoiled'. Being sympathetic to the goals and actions of the second group, I was pretty pissed about their assumptions.
-- MsSpock (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 09, 2002.
Thanks, Rob - that was a good post. It's good to know that I'm not alone in my experience.
I posted another response - agreeing with the person I initially disagreed with, but due to a temporary glitch in the server, it's up near the top with the rest of my posts. I hope this one doesn't end up there as well.
I reposted the entire 'passionate advocacy' article so that others could see it. That thread is here
-- J.Yes (email@example.com), March 09, 2002.
I think it would be helpful to summarize what was said on Indymedia so we know where to start.
I guess the contention was, that the term "middle class" is often used as a insult by some activists-- as in, you're so middle class, you'll never understand the working class struggle. And often the people lobbying these insults would be percieved as "middle class" themselves.
Who defines what is middle or working class anyway? Just a rhetorical question. And why is it such an insult? No one can help the circumstances they're born into. I'm personally glad to see the so-called "middle class" individuals with a conscience working to do what's right. Although I'm probably biased b/c I would qualify as middle class, I'm sure. ANd actually I don't like these terms ("middle class", "working class") anyway, they reek to much of sectarian politics.
-- jms (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 07, 2002.
i really dug the post by leonard. clarification on all those figureheads.
the other thing i think is truly important is the reality that people in different classes are conditioned differently during education.
one can really see it in social change endeavors and this is in no small part by design... it makes it difficult to get things done.
-- rob (email@example.com), March 07, 2002.
first, i made the first post, and yeah, Ms. Spock, you misunderstood it.
and I really thought Rob was on to it when he posted. The "white" activist label sucks; I'm not white, but it sucks all the same. it leads to a lot of problems as a reaction, one of them blatant pandering to people o color in order to avoid the dreaded white actvist label. there can also be pandering to the working class.
I would say, why repeat Rob, thats pretty much my position too.
-- rob's answer, and yes, not real email (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 07, 2002.
well, maybe I mispoke, Ms Spoke you differently understood it than I wrote it. of course, I guess I was presuming the person making the label was "not themselves middle class."
I think of course, class priviledge is really importent. as a non- white, its really important to me to understand how that works. but i also see it used in really messed up ways. i see it used by people who want to pander to non-whites, but also get tired of it, and want someone to pander to them for a change.
its really hard for someone being discriminated against to really understand the whole situation. so i don't want to say "just be clear when you bring in class." just like i couldn't say, "don't bring in race unless you're absoluitely clear about it."
on the whole, i don't know how to go about it other than, you can really tell what someone's motives are, and where they are going. i think too much we want really rock solid almost scholarly articles on this stuff. but honestly, we all know the ISO is crap. and most of us pretty much do know there's some class privliedge going down big time among supposed activists.
while i agree we should discuss, lets get away maybe from needing to be scholarly-rational on every single issue. when everyone feels its one way, and no one is being coerced to "feel" what they aren't really feeling, maybe that can be good to go with.
-- sorry, still fake email (email@example.com), March 07, 2002.
i think it's interesting also to note how some people will use the argument, when a working class person gets involved with activism (whether they are white or black makes no difference in this partuicular situation), and there are wealthy white or middle calss whites involved.. The working person will get accused of being too aggressive, or have the grammer slammed every five minutes... that's a situation where class and conditioning are obvious.
it's all about control.. middle class people use these means of maitaining control over a situation, so they'll say anything to get back on 'top' of the structure or 'process'.
and we (working class people) fall for it because we know deep inside that if they wanted to they could have us put away for any of their accusations... we can't afford legal defense... and they like it like that.
this happpens on the left all the time. ALL THE TIME
a similar generalization to the one the guy made on the indymedia board (all white kids want to be rock stars so they rebel because the club is too small), would be that middle class people all want to be part of the ruling class but they can't so they start non-profits.
there is a kernal of truth to it..
so we try to adjust the decision making process to include a wider range of people, but the middle class people control the process language... because they have formal education, and the cycle starts all over.
i mean... i once helped start a community center for people who wanted to be in activism and help each other survive uasing as little capitalism as possible. within a year it was taken over by college women who drove out all the working people, (men and women) and some of whome used it on their resume to go get jobs working for various city agencies.. exactly what we started it to combat, that's what it became. only a couple of the original people could even stand being around it. and we worked so hard to make it. they conquered us!
how did they do it? they accused all the working people of being crass and addicted and some ism or the other, and kept the homeless guys out of the center, and kept the kids out by threatening to call dcfs. they are little control freaks.
the center still exists today and those people have taken their conquring ways elswhere. now the place is doing fine and performing well.. pretty damn close if not exactly to it's original intent.
but it took years... and trust, because hardly any of the original members hung around after the insurrections.
i mean politics are politics you know? i'll bet anyone reading this could make parallels to their own experiences regardless of whether it were black org. or a church or whatever.
-- rob (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 09, 2002.
its pretty discouraging what you're talking about. i think the control comes so wrapped up in all of this, its really hard to get away from it. even people you don't think would do it, do it.
but you're right. i'd like to find ways of bringing this up more and more often. its really hard to do. maybe we _could_ advertise this buelliten board more, and make more people aware.
is using a fake email messing things up for anyone?
-- (email@example.com), March 10, 2002.
i thought this was the alternative place to discuss things fake email?
-- rob (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 10, 2002.
No, using a fake e-mail is not a problem until Philip Greenspun decides to do something about it, which won't be for a while. I munged my e-mail because all of my posts are showing up on top, instead of in the proper chronological order.
We should promote this board, but I'm afraid of being banned from Indymedia for life right now, so I'm trying to lay low. I have to go to work right now - I'll be back in a few (hours).
-- Jane (email@example.com), March 11, 2002.
yeah, i think we should publicize this. it sucks about indymedia...kinda fascistic. its a much less loving place then when Seattle broke. its kinda dopey know, because its such an un-loving place.
how about a concerted web effort among us who seem to be interested, to make it a "place" for discussion on race, class, gender, how to do things. for all people like to not admit it, there is an activism community. pretending it doesn't exist does nothing to solve problems within it and make it a totally cool place. I think thats a biiiiig problem. People are afraid to say they ENJOY what they're doing.
Part of it is a tendency I heard a doctor who practices in really rough conditions described as guilt that ones life purpose revolves around human misery. But I say, at some point you got to come clean about why you're doing what you're doing. And not many of us are really up to the noble suffering idea; there are some things we LIKE about this. so discuss honestly.
-- (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 13, 2002.
i pesonally think imc kicks ass. it's not a discussion place it's a news and opinion sharing place. i think it does a good job of that. if there needs to be a discussion place... then let's make it compatable with mc... advertise it on there and let people know there's some talking going on.
as far as why... or the motivation for the activism...
i think i just want to live in a place i can be proud of.. i don't really LIKE much of it... i think politics sucks and i could tel some insider stories that would make a lot of people so disgusted with the 'left' they'd vote republican out of spite..
i just want to leave the place better than i found it. i want to be proud... it's really that simple.
-- rob (email@example.com), March 13, 2002.
Each one of us has a class identity and it is a Good Thing to understand that, in the same way that it is a Good Thing to know your own weaknesses and blind spots - it lets you stumble over them less frequently and recover from your stumbles more quickly. Class consciousness also helps you to humanize members of other classes, who otherwise seem alien and dangerous.
But, in my view, the politics of class is almost always counterproductive to the members of that class, since the more successful you are at it, the more polarized the classes become and the chances of bridging that chasm become fainter and fainter. Chicago is a case study for the politics of divide-and-conquer.
The most dangerous brand of politics for the keepers of the status quo is the building of grassroots coalitions. You do that by sitting down in a room with people who do not share your class background, finding common political ground and defining what you are willing to join forces to accomplish. That is more subversive than any 100 street demonstrations! Opening up lines of communication that aren't controlled by or directed through power-brokers, and talking politics with people who aren't like you, is revolutionary in and of itself.
Same applies right down the line to race, too. If anything, more so.
-- Little Nipper (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 20, 2002.
Um...I don't understand a lot of this. Actually, there are many posts in this thread that I don't understand, but I really don't understand this one. I don't understand where this is coming from and to whom it is directed. I don't like to assume things about people, but this whole perspective seemed very middle-class to me. I will explain below:
Each one of us has a class identity and it is a Good Thing to understand that,
First off: working-class and poor people already know that. So I'll assume that this is not directed at me.
in the same way that it is a Good Thing to know your own weaknesses and blind spots - it lets you stumble over them less frequently and recover from your stumbles more quickly. Class consciousness also helps you to humanize members of other classes, who otherwise seem alien and dangerous.
Well, if you don't have a lot of money, then those who do have wealth are rather dangerous, i.e., the bosses and all those who identify with them or seek to justify their power.
But, in my view, the politics of class is almost always counterproductive to the members of that class,
Which one? Which class is 'that class'? And why would it work the same for one class as it does for another. I'm still not clear how 'the politics of class is almost always counterproductive.' It certainly is not from my experience, that is, the experience of growing up working-class.
since the more successful you are at it, the more polarized the classes become and the chances of bridging that chasm become fainter and fainter. Chicago is a case study for the politics of divide-and-conquer.
It is not the burden of the lower classes to bridge that chasm. They have enough of a burden as it is, and their view of the middle and upper classes, whether accurate or not, is pretty minor compared to the other stuff they have to deal with. The 'chasm' is a problem for the middle-class - so long as class issues are ignored, the polarization will continue...but the 'have nots' are not the ones doing the ignoring.
The most dangerous brand of politics for the keepers of the status quo is the building of grassroots coalitions. You do that by sitting down in a room with people who do not share your class background,
That again is a middle-class perspective. The lower classes have enough of a challenge just sitting down, let alone sitting down with a bunch of middle-class people.
finding common political ground and defining what you are willing to join forces to accomplish. That is more subversive than any 100 street demonstrations! Opening up lines of communication that aren't controlled by or directed through power-brokers, and talking politics with people who aren't like you, is revolutionary in and of itself.
If that's so, then I've been a revolutionary since I was a little girl, and especially when I was at college, since it isn't much of an effort for working-class people to be exposed to middle-class people and talk politics or whatever.
I'm not trying to be confrontational here, but I found this whole thing to be really biased - especially this stuff about people 'who aren't like you'. I grew up in a diverse community, among working-class folks, but educated among upper-middle-class people - I've always 'sat down' with people who are not 'like me'. I think that lots of lower-class people could say the same. People who have big problems in their own communities have as the least of their concerns 'sitting down' with you. What would be revolutionary for them would be to confront those who are taking their jobs away and making social service cuts, what would be revolutionary for them would be to resist the oppressive and shitty-paying service industry. What would be revolutionary for them would be to stand up to the people dumping toxins in their air, land and rivers. You are the least of their concerns.
I'm sorry if I sound upset, but it's exactly this sort of language and talk that makes me feel alienated, and it needs to be addressed, as painful as it may be.
-- Jane Yes (email@example.com), March 21, 2002.
Another comment to Jane Yes,
Let me start out by addressing my history. I come from a white middle/working class background. All rhetoric aside, what does that mean. sometimes i feel divided. sometimes i feel against myself. What I mean is my father was working class, my mother middle class. their values clashed alot. growing up,sometimes we were scraping by, some times we struggled, and sometimes we were privileged. Now that I have a college education (which I am paying for and done myself) i feel the class divide within my values and understanding more prominent. because of these conflicts which I hope one may empathize, i would agree that there is a certain middle class value, aesthetic, and reasoning; but it can be liberated. I don't think blaming everything on or targeting the middle class will liberate the middle class mindset within people (especially those who are attempting at that liberation, myself included), nor will it liberate the working class and poor from their struggles.
Yet, addressing class in this society should not be avoided. actually, i hope Jane could educate me on how to attack class and address class issues more efficiently, especially now that I am more educated than I as when I was younger and feel more alienated from people, friends, and communities that are so deep and rich with class consciousness.
ok, so i am contradictory, but who isn't in this society.
bell hooks never leaves the reader feeling confrontational nor going away with a sour face, but with a certain new understanding and desire to change. i believe her brilliance comes from her deconstructing the system which divides and alienates and leaving a path for the oppressor and oppressed to navigate their own liberation for a social transformation.
i have always found bell hooks to be an inspiration for me and hope just to pass that on to others on this discussion list.
oh, wait, but this list is for activists and not a scholarly circle. how do we show sympathetic privileged people how gentrification is rascist and classist and how to fight it? how do we show middle class people how housing and education struggles are tied to themselves, their actions, and their own struggles? how do we teach middle class people that the poor and working class struggle is their struggle and equip them with the proper tools and guidance to join, without obstructing?
hard to answer, i think. any takers.
i know the colors of resistance, which deals mostly with anti-rascism but deals with all issues, has poignant ideas.
maybe there should be a workshop to deal with class differences/alienation within the activists circles. train people to be more class conscious while attempting to deconstruct the classes. we are alike and different (hopefully more alike than different), don't forget that. maybe there is and i don't know cause i am new to chicago,
-- derry air (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 21, 2002.
here is a quote from the above post i'd like to address.
>>finding common political ground and defining what you are willing to join forces to accomplish. That is more subversive than any 100 street demonstrations! Opening up lines of communication that aren't controlled by or directed through power-brokers, and talking politics with people who aren't like you, is revolutionary in and of itself.<<
how is it revolutionary to agree that hunger is bad? or that racism is bad.. we sit down with middle-class people all day and agree on the problems.. that's not the hard part... the hard part is getting them to let go of the control mechanisms when it comes to the development of solutions to those problems. we sit down in a meeting, discuss the problems, then they go adjust the language just enough to make it look like something different is going to happen... but the effects of all these policies are still the same.
the thing you hate about this whole thing... i think the denial you are in is that you ARE like me.. but you pay into the system that separates us because it protects your privilege. if i say anything to strong in public or address this 'chasm' in language that is considered to brash or threatening (to privilege), you can have me arrested, or just slander my name and accuse me of violence or some 'ism', just so you don't have to face the truth of what i'm saying.
this happens everyday, all over the world.
-- rob (email@example.com), March 22, 2002.